Philadelphia Zoo McNeil Avian Center

The renovation and expansion of the neoclassical bird house at America’s first zoo allows visitors to experience an immersive, free-flight, tropical forest aviary. The original 1916 facade and internal structure were preserved and the addition of a translucent exhibit hall doubled the building’s size. The dramatic architecture features panels that modulate ultraviolet and infrared light, attached to an exoskeletal frame designed to prevent birds from perching. Visitors are engaged by a highly interactive interpretive core, including a 4-D theater that uses a multi-sensory experience to explain avian migration. A complex network of zookeeper support areas includes quarantine facilities, an incubation room, and large central kitchen. The building is warmed and cooled by a geoexchange system that substantially reduces energy needs.


Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


17,370 sf

Project Principal

David Searles
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